First came the campaign to have Jane Austen printed on the £10 note. Today another hard-fought battle was won as the first ever statue of a woman to be erected in Parliament Square was officially unveiled in London.
The 8ft 4in bronze statue of suffragist, Dame Millicent Garrett Fawcett, was crafted by Turner Prize-winning artist Gillian Wearing. Dame Fawcett campaigned for women’s right to vote during the 19th and early 20th centuries, which was finally awarded to those over the age of 30 by the 1918 Representation of the People Act. This year marks the centenary of the Act.
Dame Fawcett was unveiled from beneath a black shroud by a group of local schoolchildren. Prime Minister Theresa May, London Mayor Sadiq Khan and the brainchild behind the statue, Caroline Criado Perez, looked on and applauded. Depicted at the age of 50 when she became the president of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies, Dame Fawcett carries a banner reading ‘courage calls to courage everywhere’.
A feminist writer and activist, Perez was also responsible for the campaign to have Jane Austen appear on the £10 note. Inspiration for Dame Fawcett’s statue struck Perez as she went for a run on International Women’s Day in 2016. It dawned on her that all eleven existing statues in Parliament Square were of historically significant men including Nelson Mandela, Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi and Sir Winston Churchill.
Sitting on a bench outside Buckingham Palace at the end of her run, Perez took out her phone and launched a petition calling for the Fawcett statue. Two years later, her dream was realised. “I can’t really take the whole thing in. It’s too big really to contemplate that it’s finally happening,” Perez told reporters.
PM May credited Dame Fawcett for having paved the way for her own political career. “For generations to come, this statue will serve as… inspiration to all of us who wish to follow in her footsteps”, she told the cheering crowds outside the Houses of Parliament.
In other sculpture news, the controversial ‘Fearless Girl’, which has stared down Wall Street’s ‘Charging Bull’ in New York City is due to be relocated by the end of 2018. Mayor Bill de Blasio confirmed it will be moved in front of the New York Stock Exchange partly because of safety concerns.